This content is part of the Essential Guide: Data center convergence and the role of storage

Shorten your data storage problem list with hyper-convergence

IT professionals have many hurdles to jump in traditional, virtualized storage environments. Luckily, hyper-converged infrastructure can eliminate some of those obstacles.

Hyper-converged systems consist of a variety of resources -- not just storage. And while these systems are best known for their ability to host virtualized workloads, they can also solve almost any data storage problem plaguing IT pros in traditional environments. Here are four data storage problems hyper-convergence can solve.

Data storage problem #1: Storage silos

One of the primary challenges a hyper-converged infrastructure addresses is that of storage silos. Silos evolve as a result of business growth or changing technology. There are several definitions for storage silos, but the term often refers to a situation in which storage has been dedicated to an application, workload or group of systems.

Storage silos can present many different challenges, but most of these boil down to a lack of flexibility. Dedicated, siloed storage tends to be very rigid with regard to what it can be used for. It is usually far better to treat storage as a pool of resources that can be allocated on an as-needed basis rather than to dedicate storage hardware to specific applications.

One of the benefits of using a hyper-converged system is that it has its own storage hardware. The management layer makes it easy to treat that storage as a pooled resource that can be dynamically allocated as a workload's storage requirements change over time.

Data storage problem #2: Branch office storage

Branch offices and remote offices have always presented a special set of problems for enterprise IT. The main problem is that branch offices tend to be relatively small and often lack dedicated IT support. As such, providing a branch office with dedicated enterprise storage hardware might not be practical. Not only are there costs to weigh, but the IT staff must also consider supportability.

In a branch office, storage I/O must traverse a WAN link between that office and the organization's data center. This architecture can result in high latency and a poor overall experience for employees in the branch office. Caching can help to a point, but it isn't usually practical to cache everything.

A hyper-converged system tends to be a very good fit for branch offices. These systems are compact, self-contained and much simpler to deploy and maintain than a la carte hardware. Branch office employees can benefit from local access to virtual machines and to data storage. The IT department benefits from easy remote manageability. Furthermore, many hyper-converged systems support storage replication, which allows secondary data copies to be stored in the primary data center.

Data storage problem #3: Storage expertise

Most IT pros will probably agree that storage is more complex than it was even just a few years ago. But it isn't just storage complexity that can prove problematic -- problems can stem from the use of dissimilar hardware, as well.

Streamlined management with hyper-convergence

Analyst Ben Woo discusses the benefits of the single-pane-of-glass management style found in hyper-converged environments.

Over time, an organization will inevitably need to add storage hardware or to replace existing storage hardware. Because technology continues to improve, newly acquired hardware will most likely differ from what the organization already has in place. It can be very challenging for an IT shop to support a variety of dissimilar storage hardware options.

Hyper-converged systems solve this data storage problem. Hyper-converged resources are designed to be modular, and the systems are also designed to hide most of the storage complexity. Storage is treated as a readily available, pooled resource. As such, IT pros are freed from the complex configuration and maintenance tasks inherent to using dedicated storage hardware.

Data storage problem #4: Storage capacity planning

Hyper-converged systems tend to eliminate, or at least reduce, the need for capacity planning. Hyper-converged systems are designed to be modular and to use a pay-as-you-grow architecture. This allows IT pros to purchase the exact amount of storage they need and to add additional modules should more resources be required. This eliminates the risk of over-purchasing storage resources.

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